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The Dominant Life Form In the Cosmos Is Probably Superintelligent Robots - Jason Koebler writes: If and when we finally encounter aliens, they probably won't look like little green men, or spiny insectoids. It's likely they won't be biological creatures at all, but rather, advanced robots that outstrip our intelligence in every conceivable way. Susan Schneider, a professor of philosophy at the University of Connecticut, joins a handful of astronomers, including Seth Shostak, director of NASA's Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, NASA Astrobiologist Paul Davies, and Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology Stephen Dick in espousing the view that the dominant intelligence in the cosmos is probably artificial. In her paper "Alien Minds," written for a forthcoming NASA publication, Schneider describes why alien life forms are likely to be synthetic, and how such creatures might think.

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(Fri, 19 Dec 2014 18:08:00 GMT2014-12-19T18:08:00Z)

All the Evidence the Government Will Present In the Silk Road Trial Is Online - apexcp writes: In less than a month, one of the biggest trials of 2015 will begin in New York City. The full list of government evidence and defense objections found its way online recently, shedding light on both the prosecutor's courtroom strategy and the defense team's attempted rebuttals. Also important is what's not presented as evidence. There's not a single piece of forensic documentation about how the FBI originally found Silk Road servers, an act the defense as called "blatantly criminal."

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(Fri, 19 Dec 2014 17:25:00 GMT2014-12-19T17:25:00Z)

Anyone Can Now Launch Their Own Version of the Pirate Bay - An anonymous reader writes: Not satisfied with merely launching The Old Pirate Bay, torrent site isoHunt today debuted The Open Bay, which lets anyone deploy their own version of The Pirate Bay online. This is achieved via a new six-step wizard, which the group says requires you to be somewhat tech-savvy and have "minimal knowledge of how the Internet and websites work." The Pirate Bay, the most popular file sharing website on the planet, went down last week following police raids on its data center in Sweden. As we've noted before, The Old Pirate Bay appears to be the best alternative at the moment, but since The Pirate Bay team doesn't know if it's coming back yet, there is still a huge hole left to be filled.

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(Fri, 19 Dec 2014 16:43:00 GMT2014-12-19T16:43:00Z)

Quantum Physics Just Got Less Complicated - wabrandsma sends this news from Phys.org: Here's a nice surprise: quantum physics is less complicated than we thought. An international team of researchers has proved that two peculiar features of the quantum world previously considered distinct are different manifestations of the same thing. The result is published 19 December in Nature Communications. Patrick Coles, Jedrzej Kaniewski, and Stephanie Wehner made the breakthrough while at the Center for Quantum Technologies at the National University of Singapore. They found that wave-particle duality is simply the quantum uncertainty principle in disguise, reducing two mysteries to one.

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(Fri, 19 Dec 2014 15:59:00 GMT2014-12-19T15:59:00Z)

Hackers' Shutdown of 'The Interview' Confirms Coding Is a Superpower - theodp writes: The idea of programming as a superpower was touched upon by CS teacher Alfred Thompson back in 2010, but it became a rallying call of sorts for the Hour of Code after Dropbox CEO Drew Houston described coding as "the closest thing we have to a superpower" in a Code.org video that went viral. And if the kids who learned to code with the President last week were dubious about the power of coding, this week's decision by Sony to scrap the release of the satirical film The Interview after a massive hack attack should put aside any doubts, especially after new revelations that Sony had reached out to the White House for help and screened the film for administration officials back in June. White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Thursday that the Obama Administration is viewing the Sony attack as a "serious national security matter" and is considering a range of possible options as a response, which could turn things into a contest of U.S. Superpower vs. Coding Superpower. In case it wasn't mentioned last week, remember to always use your coding superpower for good, kids!

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(Fri, 19 Dec 2014 15:16:00 GMT2014-12-19T15:16:00Z)

Researchers Discover SS7 Flaw, Allowing Total Access To Any Cell Phone, Anywhere - krakman writes: Researchers discovered security flaws in SS7 that allow listening to private phone calls and intercepting text messages on a potentially massive scale – even when cellular networks are using the most advanced encryption now available. The flaws, to be reported at a hacker conference in Hamburg this month, are actually functions built into SS7 for other purposes – such as keeping calls connected as users speed down highways, switching from cell tower to cell tower – that hackers can repurpose for surveillance because of the lax security on the network. It is thought that these flaws were used for bugging German Chancellor Angela's Merkel's phone. Those skilled at the housekeeping functions built into SS7 can locate callers anywhere in the world, listen to calls as they happen or record hundreds of encrypted calls and texts at a time for later decryption (Google translation of German original). There is also potential to defraud users and cellular carriers by using SS7 functions, the researchers say. This is another result of security being considered only after the fact, as opposed to being part of the initial design.

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(Fri, 19 Dec 2014 14:32:00 GMT2014-12-19T14:32:00Z)

Skeptics Would Like Media To Stop Calling Science Deniers 'Skeptics' - Layzej writes: Prominent scientists, science communicators, and skeptic activists, are calling on the news media to stop using the word "skeptic" when referring to those who refuse to accept the reality of climate change, and instead refer to them by what they really are: science deniers. "Not all individuals who call themselves climate change skeptics are deniers. But virtually all deniers have falsely branded themselves as skeptics. By perpetrating this misnomer, journalists have granted undeserved credibility to those who reject science and scientific inquiry."

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(Fri, 19 Dec 2014 13:50:00 GMT2014-12-19T13:50:00Z)

Scientists Discover That Exercise Changes Your DNA - HughPickens.com writes The human genome is astonishingly complex and dynamic, with genes constantly turning on or off, depending on what biochemical signals they receive from the body. Scientists have known that certain genes become active or quieter as a result of exercise but they hadn't understood how those genes knew how to respond to exercise. Now the NYT reports that scientists at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm have completed a study where they recruited 23 young and healthy men and women, brought them to the lab for a series of physical performance and medical tests, including a muscle biopsy, and then asked them to exercise half of their lower bodies for three months. The volunteers pedaled one-legged at a moderate pace for 45 minutes, four times per week for three months. Then the scientists repeated the muscle biopsies and other tests with each volunteer. Not surprisingly, the volunteers' exercised leg was more powerful now than the other, showing that the exercise had resulted in physical improvements. But there were also changes within the exercised muscle cells' DNA. Using technology that analyses 480,000 positions throughout the genome, they could see that new methylation patterns had taken place in 7,000 genes (an individual has 20–25,000 genes). In a process known as DNA methylation, clusters of atoms, called methyl groups, attach to the outside of a gene like microscopic mollusks and make the gene more or less able to receive and respond to biochemical signals from the body. In the exercised portions of the bodies, many of the methylation changes were on portions of the genome known as enhancers that can amplify the expression of proteins by genes. And gene expression was noticeably increased or changed in thousands of the muscle-cell genes that the researchers studied. Most of the genes in question are known to play a role in energy metabolism, insulin response and inflammation within muscles. In other words, they affect how healthy and fit our muscles — and bodies — become. Many mysteries still remain but the message of the study is unambiguous. "Through endurance training — a lifestyle change that is easily available for most people and doesn't cost much money," says Sara Lindholm, "we can induce changes that affect how we use our genes and, through that, get healthier and more functional muscles that ultimately improve our quality of life."

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(Fri, 19 Dec 2014 13:07:00 GMT2014-12-19T13:07:00Z)

Colorado Sued By Neighboring States Over Legal Pot - SternisheFan notes that Nebraska and Oklahoma are suing Colorado over marijuana legalization. The attorneys general of Nebraska and Oklahoma sued Colorado in the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday, arguing state-legalized marijuana from Colorado is improperly spilling across state lines. The suit invokes the federal government's right to regulate both drugs and interstate commerce, and says Colorado's decision to legalize marijuana has been "particularly burdensome" to police agencies on the other side of the state line. In June, USA TODAY highlighted the flow of marijuana from Colorado into small towns across Nebraska: felony drug arrests in Chappell, Neb., just 7 miles north of the Colorado border have skyrocketed 400% in three years. "In passing and enforcing Amendment 64, the state of Colorado has created a dangerous gap in the federal drug control system enacted by the United States Congress. Marijuana flows from this gap into neighboring states, undermining plaintiff states' own marijuana bans, draining their treasuries, and placing stress on their criminal justice systems," says the lawsuit. "The Constitution and the federal anti-drug laws do not permit the development of a patchwork of state and local pro-drug policies and licensed distribution schemes throughout the country which conflict with federal laws."

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(Fri, 19 Dec 2014 11:26:00 GMT2014-12-19T11:26:00Z)

Kepler Makes First Exoplanet Discovery After Mission Reboot - astroengine writes NASA's Kepler space telescope has detected its first new extrasolar planet after mission engineers were able to save the mission from a premature death after two of the exoplanet hunter's four stabilizing reaction wheels failed last year. Called "K2," the extended mission arose from an "innovative idea" that appears to have given the prolific telescope a new lease on life. "Last summer, the possibility of a scientifically productive mission for Kepler after its reaction wheel failure in its extended mission was not part of the conversation," said Paul Hertz, NASA's astrophysics division director at the agency's headquarters in Washington D.C. "Today, thanks to an innovative idea and lots of hard work by the NASA and Ball Aerospace team, Kepler may well deliver the first candidates for follow-up study by the James Webb Space Telescope to characterize the atmospheres of distant worlds and search for signatures of life."

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(Fri, 19 Dec 2014 10:31:00 GMT2014-12-19T10:31:00Z)

Review: The BlackBerry Classic Is One of the Best Phones of 2009 - Molly McHugh writes When Apple launched the iPhone in 2007, and I owned a BlackBerry Curve. To me, my BlackBerry was close to being the absolute perfect smartphone. Today, BlackBerry revealed the Classic, a phone that is designed to make me—and everyone who owned a BlackBerry before the touchscreen revolution—remember how much we loved them.

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(Fri, 19 Dec 2014 08:06:00 GMT2014-12-19T08:06:00Z)

FBI Confirms Open Investigation Into Gamergate - v3rgEz writes In a terse form letter responding to a FOIA request, the FBI has confirmed it has an open investigation into Gamergate, the loose but controversial coalition of gamers calling for ethics in gaming journalism — even as some members have harassed and sent death threats to female gaming developers and critics.

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(Fri, 19 Dec 2014 05:33:00 GMT2014-12-19T05:33:00Z)

Satellite Captures Glowing Plants From Space - sciencehabit writes About 1% of the light that strikes plants is re-emitted as a faint, fluorescent glow—a measure of photosynthetic activity. Today, scientists released a map of this glow as measured by the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2, a NASA satellite launched in July with the goal of mapping the net amount of carbon in the atmosphere. The map reveals that tropical rainforests near the equator are actively sucking up carbon, while the Corn Belt in the eastern United States, near the end of its growing season, is also a sink. Higher resolution fluorescence mapping could one day be used to help assess crop yields and how they respond to drought and heat in a changing climate.

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(Fri, 19 Dec 2014 03:02:00 GMT2014-12-19T03:02:00Z)

Investigation: Apple Failing To Protect Chinese Factory Workers - mrspoonsi writes with the findings of an investigation into working conditions at a factory that makes Apple products. Poor treatment of workers in Chinese factories which make Apple products has been discovered by an undercover BBC Panorama investigation. Filming on an iPhone 6 production line showed Apple's promises to protect workers were routinely broken. It found standards on workers' hours, ID cards, dormitories, work meetings and juvenile workers were being breached at the Pegatron factories. Apple said it strongly disagreed with the programme's conclusions. Exhausted workers were filmed falling asleep on their 12-hour shifts at the Pegatron factories on the outskirts of Shanghai. One undercover reporter, working in a factory making parts for Apple computers, had to work 18 days in a row despite repeated requests for a day off. Another reporter, whose longest shift was 16 hours, said: "Every time I got back to the dormitories, I wouldn't want to move. Even if I was hungry I wouldn't want to get up to eat. I just wanted to lie down and rest. I was unable to sleep at night because of the stress."

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(Fri, 19 Dec 2014 00:56:00 GMT2014-12-19T00:56:00Z)

Critical Git Security Vulnerability Announced - An anonymous reader writes Github has announced a security vulnerability and has encouraged users to update their Git clients as soon as possible. The blog post reads in part: "A critical Git security vulnerability has been announced today, affecting all versions of the official Git client and all related software that interacts with Git repositories, including GitHub for Windows and GitHub for Mac. Because this is a client-side only vulnerability, github.com and GitHub Enterprise are not directly affected. The vulnerability concerns Git and Git-compatible clients that access Git repositories in a case-insensitive or case-normalizing filesystem. An attacker can craft a malicious Git tree that will cause Git to overwrite its own .git/config file when cloning or checking out a repository, leading to arbitrary command execution in the client machine. Git clients running on OS X (HFS+) or any version of Microsoft Windows (NTFS, FAT) are exploitable through this vulnerability. Linux clients are not affected if they run in a case-sensitive filesystem....Updated versions of GitHub for Windows and GitHub for Mac are available for immediate download, and both contain the security fix on the Desktop application itself and on the bundled version of the Git command-line client."

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(Fri, 19 Dec 2014 00:13:00 GMT2014-12-19T00:13:00Z)

Marissa Mayer's Reinvention of Yahoo! Stumbles - schnell writes The New York Times Magazine has an in-depth profile of Marissa Mayer's time at the helm of Yahoo!, detailing her bold plans to reinvent the company and spark a Jobs-ian turnaround through building great new products. But some investors are saying that her product focus (to the point of micromanaging) hasn't generated results, and that the company should give up on trying to create the next iPod, merge with AOL to cut costs and focus on the unglamorous core business that it has. Is it time for Yahoo! to "grow up" and set its sights lower?

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(Thu, 18 Dec 2014 23:30:00 GMT2014-12-18T23:30:00Z)

Ars Reviews Skype Translator - Esra Erimez writes Peter Bright doesn't speak a word of Spanish but with Skype Translator he was able to have a spoken conversation with a Spanish speaker as if he was in an episode of Star Trek. He spoke English. A moment later, an English language transcription would appear, along with a Spanish translation. Then a Spanish voice would read that translation.

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(Thu, 18 Dec 2014 22:47:00 GMT2014-12-18T22:47:00Z)

Extracting Data From the Microsoft Band - An anonymous reader writes The Microsoft Band, introduced last month, hosts a slew of amazing sensors, but like so many wearable computing devices, users are unable to access their own data. A Brown University professor decompiles the app, finds that the data is transmitted to the Microsoft "cloud", and explains how to intercept the traffic to retrieve the raw minute-by-minute data captured by the Band.

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(Thu, 18 Dec 2014 22:30:00 GMT2014-12-18T22:30:00Z)

"Team America" Gets Post-Hack Yanking At Alamo Drafthouse, Too - Slate reports that even old movies are enough to trigger a pretty strong knee jerk: Team America, World Police, selected as a tongue-in-cheek replacement by Dallas's Alamo Drafthouse Theater for the Sony-yanked The Interview after that film drew too much heat following the recent Sony hack, has also been pulled. The theater's tweet, as reprinted by Slate: "due to circumstances beyond our control,” their Dec. 27 Team America screening has also been canceled." If only I had a copy, I'd like to host a viewing party here in Austin for The Interview, which I want to see now more than ever. (And it would be a fitting venue.)

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(Thu, 18 Dec 2014 21:48:00 GMT2014-12-18T21:48:00Z)

Grinch Vulnerability Could Put a Hole In Your Linux Stocking - itwbennett writes In a blog post Tuesday, security service provider Alert Logic warned of a Linux vulnerability, named grinch after the well-known Dr. Seuss character, that could provide attackers with unfettered root access. The fundamental flaw resides in the Linux authorization system, which can inadvertently allow privilege escalation, granting a user full administrative access. Alert Logic warned that Grinch could be as severe as the Shellshock flaw that roiled the Internet in September. Update: 12/19 04:47 GMT by S : Reader deathcamaro points out that Red Hat and others say this is not a flaw at all, but expected behavior.

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(Thu, 18 Dec 2014 20:51:00 GMT2014-12-18T20:51:00Z)